Habits: Todd Defren, Principal, Shift Communications

'Find the solution' was the advice that helped me most as I was coming up.

Morning ritual
Whenever I'm not traveling, I spend two hours each morning with my wife – drinking coffee by the fire or walking the dog. We just celebrated our 20th anniversary and it's partly because we work at it every day.

Required reading
When I fire up my browser, the tabs are set to Techmeme, Memeorandum, Facebook, and Twitter. The first two aggregate top news from the worlds of technology and politics; the latter tend to provide me whatever I need to know about trends in social media, including a few LOLs.

Proudest career achievement
It's a tie between Shift's founding in 2003 and BusinessWeek's coverage of the Social Media News Release we debuted in 2006.

Most regrettable career moment
Every time I've had to fire someone. I view these uncommon occurrences as failures of our hiring or training processes as much as anything.

First PR job

I was the PR writer at a conglomerate that did everything from “computer sales” to “constructing wastewater treatment plants.” While it was a hodgepodge, I was never bored. What's left of that company became part of Siemens and EMCOR.

Favorite city to travel to on business?

I love traveling to New York City, but my heart belongs to San Francisco.

Most distinct aspect of your personal office
I have the smallest office, by far, in our headquarters. I am surrounded by up to six portable, scribble-filled whiteboards at any given time.

Best career advice you've ever received?
“Find the solution” was the advice that helped me most as I was coming up; it demanded independent and proactive thinking. “Bet on yourself” has become an invaluable companion more recently.

Person to call in a crisis
Our president Amy Lyons and operations chief Paula Finestone offer an unbeatable combination of cool perspective and forward motion.

Ideal job, if not in PR
If I had the talent and freedom, I would have liked to be a photographer for National Geographic or an international gadabout. That would have been fun.

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